(submitted in response to Louis A. Columbo's May 21, 1999 Plain Dealer commentary "Wahoo is a cartoon character, not an ethnic slur")
May 21, 1999
I must disagree with Louis Colombo’s assessment in his May 21 commentary that the name “Indians” and the Wahoo logo are at the heart of Cleveland’s baseball tradition.
Indeed, baseball, perhaps more than any other American sport, is steeped in tradition. But baseball also has a tradition of regular change to adapt itself to modern times. Baseball’s traditions included throwing the ball at base runners and catching the ball on one hop to record outs, but these rules were changed over time. My grandfather often speaks of remembering the days when players left their gloves on the field at the end of each half inning so that the opposing team could use them. For years, the farthest west a team would have to travel was St. Louis to play either the Cardinals or the Browns. There was the move from one All-Star game to two and back to one, the creation of league divisions, playoffs, and a wild card, the infamous designated hitter rule, and interleague play. The Browns moved to Baltimore (decades before their football namesake) and became the Orioles. The Astros were originally the Colt .45s. The Washington Senators became the Minnesota Twins and after a second incarnation moved to Texas and became the Rangers. The Seattle Pilots became the Brewers. The Dodgers moved from Brooklyn to Los Angeles, the Giants from New York to San Francisco, the Athletics from Philadelphia to Kansas City and then to Oakland, and the Braves (briefly called the Bees in the late 30’s) moved from Boston to Milwaukee and on to Atlanta.
Cleveland’s baseball tradition is much more than a logo. It is League Park, the Stadium, and Jacobs Field. It is the voice of Jimmy Dudley, or Joe Tait exclaiming, “It’s a BEAUTIFUL day for baseball” regardless of the weather. It is Lenny Barker’s perfect game. It is Frank Robinson hitting a home run on Opening Day. It is 72,086 fans setting a new All-Star Game attendance record during an August game played in a strike-shortened season when Cleveland called itself a “plum” in response to New York’s “Big Apple.” It is Kenny Lofton scoring from second on Randy Johnson’s wild pitch in the ALCS. It is the stories of Earl Averill, “Rapid” Robert Feller, Lou Boudreau, Early Wynn, Larry Doby, Bob Lemon, Stachel Paige, Jim Hegan, Rocky Colavito, Luis Tiant, “Sudden” Sam McDowell, Gaylord Perry, Dennis Eckersley, “Choo Choo” Charlie Spikes, “Super” Joe Charboneau, Joe Carter, Doug Jones, Sandy Alomar, Albert Belle, and Manny Ramírez. As the Forest Citys, Spiders, Blues, Bronchos, Naps, Grays, Hustlers, or Nova, the inter-generational link between the team and its fans has and will remain strong. The desire to change the name and logo is not an act of treason; it represents the desire to make the symbol of our city’s pride a source of pride, not shame, for anyone and everyone.
Milton Alan Turner